Marina Constantinou is our Head of Art and has been working with Spread a Smile since 2012. Meet Marina below and find our a little more about how art spreads so much joy for the patients and hospitals we support.
“My life in art started when I took A-Level art at school followed by Fashion and Textiles Design at the London College of Fashion. When my children were three and four, I started face painting and that re-ignited my love for art. I started to think how wonderful it would be to face paint for the children at Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was something I always wanted to do so I was so excited to start working with Spread a Smile.
I work with a team of around five Spread a Smile artists, all of whom offer a different artistic skill, relevant to different age groups.
I particularly enjoy painting and personalising radiotherapy masks for patients undergoing treatment for brain, head and neck cancer at University College London Hospital and The Royal Marsden. Painting the masks makes them less frightening and helps children manage their treatment better.
My whole day is spent in the mold room or conservatory, where the masks are fitted for the patient. I have a selection of pictures based on the child’s requests and then decide on the day, what and how I will be painting. All of the painting is done using Posca pens so that it doesn’t interfere with MRI scans and I do them free hand without templates. It is such a personal thing for the child and something that makes such a huge difference to what can be a very scary experience.
“I also enjoy painting designs on walls and windows within the hospitals. These really help to brighten spaces for patients, staff and families. My day starts with my case full of paint and ideas from the hospital of what they would like. Everyone loves seeing the artwork come to life before them!
“I also carry out one-to-one art sessions with patients. I take a number of different application colour options from chalk, paint, pencils and pens for the patient to choose. I have many ideas and they choose what they want to do. I usually spend about 30 minutes with each patient and they keep what they have created. It is a great opportunity to chat and teach and such a therapeutic experience for everyone.
“My work means I visit many of our Hospital partners across the Country. I’ve created art across a range of wards, departments and areas from Hematology, to recovery wards, anesthetic rooms, ambulance bays, dining areas, therapy rooms, bathrooms, outpatients, inpatients and A&E.
“A lot of hospitals are quite tired and haven’t been freshened up for many years, so it is an honour to brighten up very dull and sterile areas on the wards or waiting areas. My artwork brings a distraction to patients waiting to see a doctor and they love watching the work unfold. It can open up conversations about art and inspire children and parents to paint or draw themselves.
“My life painting for Spread a Smile is a privilege. I am given the freedom to colour and brighten spaces and ignite new feelings for everyone. The hospitals I work with are very happy when I do the artwork for them and allow me to give ideas and we work together.
The masks in particular are very special to me, as it was an idea I suggested. It was amazing to see Spread a Smile make it happen and I will always make sure I am available to paint a mask for a child starting their first treatment. It is very special work and one I am grateful for every day if it can make a small difference to children going through unimaginable things.”
Please donate to our Christmas Appeal if you can to help ensure Marina can continue to spread joy through art into 2023. Thank you.